Arroz con leche, or rice pudding infused with cinnamon and lemon zest is one of my favourite comfort foods. It’s not fancy or gourmet, but it is proper home cooking. I recently posted the regular version of arroz con leche, which is a family recipe but I tend to make a dairy free (and vegan) version of this because a few years ago my father realised he was lactose intolerant so I decided to make this dairy free version for him. I have been making it ever since because I prefer to cook dairy free whenever I can.
There really isn’t much difference in taste to the regular arroz con leche, and none in texture. Instead of using dairy milk I use unsweetened soya milk, preferably organic for the simple reason that some brands add extra thickening agents (such as guar gum) which can affect it when cooked. The same goes for the oat milk which I use as a replacement for the evaporated milk. Both flavours work well together and with the sweetness of the sugar, and the flavours of the cinnamon and lemon you wouldn’t know it was dairy free unless someone told you! The only discernible difference is in colour which is more of a cream colour than white. This version does require a little extra work because it is impossible to buy dairy free evaporated (or condensed milk) so it has to be made from scratch, but it is super easy. Basically it is a matter of just putting the oat milk in a pan to simmer and allow it to reduce by just over more than half of it’s original amount. This can be done at the same time as the rice pudding is cooking. Overall this is just as sweet, creamy and comforting as the regular version, which for me ticks all the right boxes.
- 125g round rice (paella or pudding rice)
- 125ml water
- 500ml oat milk
- pinch of salt
- 20g coconut oil (refined)
- 200g granulated sugar
- 1 litre unsweetened soya milk
- peel of 1 lemon
- 2-3 sticks of cinnamon
- 1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
For the evaporated oat milk
- Add the oat milk in medium pan and warm up to a medium to high heat and add a pinch of salt.
- Cook on a low simmer for about 20 minutes until the oat milk has reduced considerably to about 150ml.
- At this point add the coconut oil and stir until it has combined with the milk.
- Remove from the heat and if there are any lumps you can give it a mix with a hand blender to smoothen it out. This sometimes happens from the solids in the oat milk and is completely normal.
For the pudding
- Peel the lemon in large chunks trying to avoid having any of the pith (white part), as this will be bitter. It is best to try and have large sections of peel as this will make it easier to remove at a later stage.
- Put the rice in a large deep pan with the peel of lemon, the cinnamon sticks and half the sugar.
- Add the water to the rice and start to cook on a low to medium heat. The rice will start to absorb the water and the sugar and after about 10 minutes it should start to simmer.
- At this point you can add the rest of the sugar and start adding the soya milk a little bit (about a cup) at a time and keep stirring so that it does not stick to the bottom of the pan.
- The mixture may gradually darken in colour somewhat which is normal when cooking with soya milk.
- Once the rice is soft and cooked and the mixture is creamy add the evaporated oat milk, still stirring constantly and once it starts to simmer take off the heat.
- Remove the lemon rind but leave the cinnamon sticks in.
- Cover and allow to cool completely so that the rice absorbs the rest of the milk equally. Once cold decant into a large bowl or glass tray and sprinkle ground cinnamon on top.